Where Does Your Soul Hurt?

November in the Northeast of the United States colors gray. Though there are some bright days of sun and leftover reds and golds from a brilliant October, those aren’t as common as the more dull days that whisper of a winter coming and shout of a summer long gone.

And today colors grayer than gray. Though it began with a brilliant sun shining through our kitchen windows, the sun faded out of sight with thick clouds taking over.

The first question that came at me this morning was from an app that I have been using called “Soul Space.” This five minute meditation focused on “anchoring your thoughts to the love of God” is a beautiful way to ground me after my morning prayers. The question was one that quickly brought tears to my eyes.

“Ask your soul: Where does it hurt?”

Where does it hurt? Where are the painful spots in my soul today? The spots that others don’t see as I go about life. Through the meditation, listeners were invited to put their hands over their hearts and listen to where it hurt.

I felt like I was putting a stethoscope up to my soul to find the wounds and murmurs. I hadn’t realized how much my soul was hurting until I stopped to listen. Tears filled my eyes, and I brushed them away impatiently. But it was no use. They came again and I gave in to their therapeutic healing.

None of us can go through much of life before encountering soul wounds. We can keep busy and ignore them, but sometime they will catch up to us.

This pandemic season they have caught up with us. This time has revealed some deep soul wounds in many of us and we are feeling their weight. Loneliness, isolation, lack of community, division among friends and families, changes in friendships, marriage tensiton, online strife, not seeing family and friends for extended periods – all of this is taking its toll on our bodies and our souls. We are a hurting people who don’t know how to help.

A few years ago, a dear friend of mine sent me a poem. Since that time I’ve seen in quoted many times in many places, proof of it resonating across the world.

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

Warsan Shire

And though I love the poem, I don’t believe we are left hurting alone. I have come to know that there is a wound healer that comes beside us and enters our soul wounds, if we are willing.

And so I imagine God picking up that same atlas in an embrace of love, running his fingers across the whole world and whispering these words:

I heal the broken hearted, and bind up their wounds.  
I whisper hope into your soul wounds and give you joy.  
I take your burdens and make them lighter, invite you into a resting place.  
The atlas replied "But it hurts so much."   
"I know" he whispered back. 
"But let me bear it with you so you will not be alone,"  
Ever so slowly the atlas responded to the embrace. 
It still hurt, but she was no longer alone.  
And so she rested.  

[Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash]

“Don’t Jostle the Wound!”

“So” I said. “I’m planning to come home on public transportation on Friday. That will be fine, won’t it?”

There was a pause on the other end of the phone. I was speaking with Vanessa from the surgeon’s office. She was giving me instructions for the minor out-patient surgery I was having – specifically an incision to remove tissue from my right thigh.

She responded carefully. “I think it would be better to have someone pick you up. You don’t want anyone to jostle the wound.” 

Okay then. I was underestimating this surgery; minimizing the impact perhaps.

Since that conversation I’ve used the phrase several times; in telling my family that my husband would pick me up, in talking to my sister-in-law, in relaying the conversation to a friend.

The phrase has made its home – because these are wise words.

“Don’t jostle the wound!” Fresh wounds need care and rest, they need us to pay attention, listen to instructions, care for them as prescribed. Fresh wounds of the body and the heart and soul.

How often when my heart feels wounded have I longed to cry “Please! Don’t jostle my wound!” Or how often have I wanted others to cry out for me “Don’t jostle her wound – care for her, love her, nourish her.”

And the wound will heal but often we need that advice, the warning, the encouragement not to jostle the wound. For no matter how we play at being fine, there are times when we are the walking wounded. We are fragile and finite, holding hearts and souls easily wounded, easily bruised.

And so sometimes we need others to say “Don’t jostle the wound! Make sure you don’t jostle the wound!” 

Today is the first day I’ve stepped out of the house without a bandage on my wound. My hand goes protectively toward my thigh as I wait for the bus, continues to guard it as I step onto the subway. I’m now able to care for myself – I don’t need protection. But I still don’t want anyone to jostle the wound.